With the flu apparently raging through the Red Sox bullpen, the Fenway mound has seen a number of unfamiliar faces in this week's series against the Angels. For your enlightenment, here is a quick-and-dirty analysis of who we're looking at and what their futures with the Sox might entail.
David Pauley: 24-year-old righty. His MLB debut was on May 31, 2006; he ultimately started 3 games for the Sox that year and posted a 7.88 ERA (eek!) with 10 Ks (not bad) over 16 innings. Not likely to ever be above a 4th starter, but reasonably consistent and a good fielder. His best pitches are his sinker and his curveball. His fastball is low-90s. He started 26 games in Pawtucket last year and posted a 4.33 ERA over 153.2 innings, with 110 Ks and 49 BBs (blech, buddy, throw that shit OVER THE PLATE). Pauley took Beckett's start on Tuesday against Anaheim/Los Angeles/whatever, where it became evident that his sinkers sometimes don't, uh, sink. Pauley's real weakness, apart from his control issues, seems to be a tendency to give up HRs. He's back in Pawtucket now. FUTUREMRS SAYS: Not clear more time in AAA will develop him significantly more, especially given his tendency to walk batters; if anything, time in the majors will help him learn how to work more seasoned batters. He can throw strikeouts, so let's stick him in the bullpen and let him work the 6th and 7th for a while.
Craig Hansen: 24-year-old righty. Being groomed as a reliever and, ultimately, a closer. Throws comfortably in the mid-90s and is rumored to possess a nasty slider -- his ability to throw that consistently will make the difference between his minor-league and major-league careers. His MLB debut was ON MY BIRTHDAY in 2005, and he worked 38 innings for the Sox in 2006, striking out 30 on a 6.63 ERA. He was called up for yesterday's loss to the Angels, where he was plunked into a tie game in the 6th. His pitching looked speedier than it has in the past and he was able to retire 2 batters, but was ultimately ganked after giving up a solo HR to Casey Kotchman that would go on to win the Angels the game. Like Pauley, Hansen was shipped back down to Pawtucket immediately following the game. FUTUREMRS SAYS: I see this kid getting shellshocked if he spends too much time in the majors right now. Let him keep working on his speed in Pawtucket; he could ultimately be a nice complement to lefty Okajima in September.
And finally, today's man:
Justin Masterson: 22-year-old righty. Masterson is making his debut TODAY at Fenway. Woo! The lanky sinkerballer is 1-0 over 4 starts with an other-worldly 0.95 ERA in Portland this season. The strength of his sinker is said to be the variation with which he can hurl it, fluctuating between mid-80s and mid-90s and thus baffling hitters. Masterson only converted to starter last year in single-A Lancaster; he started 10 games for the AA Sea Dogs in 2007 and posted a 4.34 ERA with 59 Ks and only 18 walks through 58 innings. The stat I really love is his 16.50 K/BB ratio over 31 innings pitched in Lowell in 2006. Yowza! No wonder Boston is all a-twitter about this young lad taking the mound for Dice-K today. FUTUREMRS SAYS: I really don't see the rush to make this kid a starter yet, but if he's going to develop as a starter he needs to stay in AA for a while before making the permanent move to Pawtucket. Averaging 5.8 innings per start isn't going to wear him out, but it'll give him a chance to acclimate to working lineups (the kid only has 27 career starts, for pete's sake) and developing his pitch arsenal. The worst thing to do with talent like this would be to force it before he's ready.
Bring it on! Game at 1:35 pm today. I'm predicting a sharp decline in productivity. Thanks, MLB Gameday!
Update: Masterson pitched beautifully, allowing just 1 run (a solo homer to Mike Napoli in the 5th) and 2 hits over 6 full innings while striking out 4. However, the Sox bullpen combined to do a neat little job of blowing a 3-1 lead and ensuring that Masterson wouldn't pick up the W in his major-league debut. Maybe they were all jealous of how much attention he's getting. Unless something awesome happens in the bottom of the 9th right now it's going to be 7-3, Angels.
More update: Something a little bit awesome happened when Jacoby Ellsbury reached base and Ortiz then hit a 2-run ding-dong to make it 7-5. Manny came up to bat but flied out to Torii Hunter to end the inning so I got all excited for nothing.